Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2020
Decadence is traditionally regarded as having little importance or presence in the American literary context. This chapter sets out to prove otherwise. It employs reception-focused, materialist and book history methodologies to demonstrate the many and various ways in which Decadence manifested itself in America as well as identifying fruitful under-examined areas for further research. It argues that Americans were, in many respects, greater consumers of aestheticism and Decadence than they were producers, especially in the 1890s, but that this consumption was creative and productive, paving the way for a late flowering of Decadent production in the 1920s. The chapter covers the role of American writers Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman as formative influences in the development of European Decadence; Wilde’s importance to the enthusiasm in America for aestheticism and decadence in the 1880s; the circulation of decadent literature, art and design in American popular and avant-garde print culture; key critics and producers of Decadence of the era; and the relationship of decadence to the development of modernism.
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